This app feature became a quarantine star
Connect me: Viber shares how its Communities feature became one of the most popular during quarantine —virtually.
This app feature became a quarantine star
MISS TECH - Kathy Moran (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2020 - 12:00am

The COVID-19 pandemic, as this year’s biggest disruptor, has affected micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in unprecedented and damaging ways. Stores have been closed for months and bazaars have been cancelled now that everyone has been told to stay at home to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Because of this, communities had to learn the importance of technology. Thanks to the growth of community commerce, MSMEs are able to connect to their customers, giving them a fighting chance for survival despite the bleak outlook.

One of the tools that have helped them carry on is creating chat groups, and Viber has become an indispensable means of connection.

Lana Macapagal, manager for APAC, Rakuten Viber: Viber has become a vehicle for this emerging attitude.

Viber was among the apps of choice for personal and business communication needs even before the pandemic.

But because staying in touch with similarly minded users became a must, the Viber user-initiated Communities feature emerged as the real quarantine star, surging up 120 percent in usage during the first few weeks of the pandemic.

Veronica Feleo, business development manager, Viber

At the “Stories from Viber Communities: Keeping SMEs Afloat in a Global Pandemic” virtual roundtable discussion recently, SuperAdmins Jonathan Richie Yap of the Great Eats Manila Community and JC Alelis of the Best of Pampanga Community shared their experiences with managing a Viber Community during the pandemic.

CREATING COMMUNITIES

The Great Eats Manila Community was created in 2018 to help foodies discover new hole-in-the-wall restaurants and support up-and-coming businesses, according to Yap. During the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), he said that the Community became like a search engine for people who were looking for certain dishes or those who wanted to satisfy their cravings within proximity of their homes, which fostered impactful personal and word-of-mouth recommendations.

“That’s the advantage of a Viber Community like Great Eats Manila,” Yap said. “When somebody recommends what they’ve tried in the Community, it gives an extra boost to that certain brand or product.”

This, in return, has helped small businesses survive — not making huge profits but earning enough for their employees.

Jonathan Yap of Great Eats Community: “When somebody recommends what they’ve tried in the Viber Community, it gives an extra boost to that certain brand or product.”

Best of Pampanga, on the other hand, started out last March as a Community for JC Alelis’ wife’s family business, Pampanga’s Best. Although production continued during the quarantine, the company had a problem with distribution since their customers had limited access to the usual retailers.

Aside from becoming a platform to market Pampanga’s Best, the Community has grown into something much more meaningful and close-knit, allowing them to help their staff earn more income through delivery and also offer other local products and delicacies, as requested by their customers.

“Gradually, we realized we had to outgrow our initial purpose,” Alelis said. “We’re letting the Community lead. We’re not just offering them Pampanga’s Best; we’re offering them the best of Pampanga — on demand. I think we’re even turning into something more like a food-tourism Community since our members have requested for products outside the province.”

JC Alelis of Best of Pampanga Community: “We’re not just offering them Pampanga’s Best; we’re offering them the best of Pampanga — on demand.”

The SuperAdmins also shared some of their insights on why Viber Communities became the preferred channel for business owners during the quarantine. Yap pointed out that Community SuperAdmins have more freedom and control over how they interact with the members, grow their supergroup, and maintain their privacy.

“There’s no one rule on how to manage your Viber Community,” Yap said. “It doesn’t work that way. It really depends on the purpose of the Community and what works for you. Each Viber Community has its own essence or soul that’ll grow or adapt over time.”

Alelis, moreover, said that Viber Communities have allowed SMEs to strategize without thinking about algorithm, giving entrepreneurs more control over their actions instead of letting a machine rig reach, engagements, and interactions. Based on his experience, he added that Viber is also friendlier to non-techies.

“Viber made it really possible for business owners like us to break boundaries and also be more inclusive, even at the height of the ECQ. It’s the kind of connection that I sincerely doubt would’ve been possible through social media,” he said.

Rakuten Viber APAC PR manager Lana Macapagal said that the SuperAdmins’ statements were not only an affirmation of the messaging app’s user-centric approach, but also of its potential as an avenue for people to act on their intrinsic desire to help each other. She called this new communication habit a form of digital bayanihan. Viber has become a vehicle for this emerging attitude, as it provides users with a captured market and the capabilities to adapt to the new normal.

“Listening to the personal stories of our SuperAdmins really made all the work we do behind the scenes worth every effort,” she said. “We are happy to hear that Viber, which simply aims to safely connect people whoever and wherever they are, has served its purpose and empowered micro, small, and medium businesses to survive and even thrive during such an incredibly challenging time in our history.”

Staying in touch during these trying times has become so important — not just for keeping businesses alive but more for helping know that we are not in this alone.

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